Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 are over, the holiday shopping frenzy is far from done. In fact, Nielsen projects that seasonal sales will top $923 billion, with $106 billion in purchases expected to originate online. Unfortunately, holiday shopping breeds crime. In fact, a recent survey reveals that most scams and package theft, worldwide, occur during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. So, how can you shut down the Grinch? Follow these tips for a safe holiday shopping season.
#BeSafe Shopping Online
- Shop only at websites you trust. You should do this all year around! Although online shopping is the new “go to,” going to stores in real life offers one advantage: You can see that the business and the inventory exist. Online, some scammers fabricate businesses to steal credit card info and other personal details. If a deal appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.
- Whenever possible, pay with a credit card instead of a debit card. I don’t have either. But then again, I also don’t have pockets. You will be able to dispute questionable transactions or even legitimate sales if merchandise fails to arrive regardless of payment method.
- When you order something online, double-check the website address bar to make sure you are using a secure connection. In most cases, encrypted (safe) sites will feature a padlock icon in your browser, which means your financial and other personal data will be reasonably safe.
- Find out if your bank, credit union or bankcard company offers one-time card numbers to be used for safe online transactions. Many do so to protect cardholders. Login to your account or contact your card provider to see if it offers this service.
- When activating gift cards displayed on kiosks, make sure the security code is covered. Scam artists record gift card numbers before they are activated, and then use them to shop online once someone else has paid to load the card. I think this is especially important if you’re buying Omaha Steaks, bacon or gift certificates to Petco.
- Don’t use public wi-fi to shop online. If you are on a smartphone or tablet and want to shop while you are away from home, turn off the wi-fi on your device. Make sure you are using data instead of a public wi-fi signal, which hackers could use to steal your information.
- We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The best defense against cyber-crime is to create strong passwords and change them often. If someone has the password to your account, they can log in, change the shipping address, and order merchandise while you get stuck with the bill.
- Use a complex set of lowercase and uppercase numbers, letters, and symbols.
- Don’t use personal information that others could find or guess, such as birthdates, your children’s names, or your favorite color.
- Don’t use the same password—however strong—on multiple accounts. A data breach at one company could grant criminals access to all of your accounts. That includes the great password, ILoveRJtheFiredog. But you can still use it with a hashtag.
#BeSafe Shopping in Stores
- Whenever possible, shop with a companion, especially after dark. Canines make great companions!
- Shop distraction-free. That means don’t walk while looking down at your phone. Pay attention to your surroundings.
- When walking to your car, carry your keys. Criminals are opportunistic. They target people who look confused or distracted. Scare them away with confidence.
- Park Smart. Don’t leave valuables (or pets) visible in your car. Consider moving your vehicle to a different location each time you load packages into the trunk. Whenever possible, rely on parking lots that have parking attendants or security patrols.
- Before heading out, record account numbers and associated customer service phone numbers for each card your carry. If your possessions are stolen, you will be glad you took this extra step.
- Keep your wallet and/or purse in a hard-to-reach place in your possession. Carry only the amount of cash and number of credit cards you will need to complete purchases. And shield your PIN whenever you enter it. I don’t use a PIN, since I don’t have opposable thumbs.
- If someone confronts you and demands your purse, wallet, or packages, surrender them. Take note of the suspect’s description and the direction they flee. Then, call 911. Property can be replaced. People can’t.
- “If you see something, say something.
If you witness criminal activity or see something or someone suspicious, flag down a police officer, call 911 or contact building security.
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